In the wake of the latest series of tremors that hit Idukki and its neighbouring areas early on Saturday, the Government of Kerala has asserted that it would remain firm on its twin demands: decreasing the storage capacity of the Mullaperiyar dam to below 136 feet with immediate effect and constructing a new dam within a stipulated time frame.
Speaking to media persons here, Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan pointed out that the State Government cannot remain a mute spectator to the growing threat over the strength of the 116-year-old dam. The state cannot afford to soften its stand on the issue as it concerns the lives of nearly 35 lakh people, he said.
Mr. Radhakrishnan reiterated the perspective of the government that the demand for the construction of a new dam should not be a cause for anxiety for the Government and people of Tamil Nadu. “Although we are
of the opinion that the existing agreement is outdated and requires renewal, we do not, at present, question any of the clauses that are specified in the agreement. We do not intend to withdraw from the agreement by any means. All that is being pressed for is a rectification with respect to the current impasse in the matter. It is obvious and evident to all that the existing dam would not remain undamaged for a period of 999 years (the lease period of the dam with respect to the existing agreement)”.
“The construction of a new dam would not hamper the interests of the state of Tamil Nadu. It would also not amount to a violation of the agreement that exists between the two states. It the proposed dam was being envisaged to be constructed on the upstream of the existing dam, it would not be unreasonable on the part of Tamil Nadu to contest the demand. However, the proposal has been made for building a new dam at
a site that is about 1300 feet downstream from the Mullaperiyar dam. It should be noted that the Government of Kerala would not utilise a single drop of water from the downstream of the dam. More importantly, the new dam would be able to withstand any eventualities that occur at the existing dam,” he said.
Reacting to the reported statements made by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy that the concerns over the strength of the dam were intended to spread falsehood, Mr. Radhakrishnan said that certain sections of the leaders continued to create misconceptions among the public.
“It is difficult to fathom the basis on which he had arrived at such an observation. It remains doubtful whether certain leaders in the political arena of Tamil Nadu have realised and understood the feeling of insecurity that has been haunting for a long period the inhabitants living near the dam. That the state of Kerala has, over the years, never adopted a stand that goes against supplying water for Tamil Nadu remains a fact,” he said.
The Minister, who heads the Department of Disaster Management, said that a special team has been constituted in order to conduct studies regarding the strength of the dam in the context of the recent
tremors. The team consists of John Mathai, senior scientist at the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), Kesavan Mohan, Director of the Institute of Land and Disaster Management (ILDM), and Sekhar L .
Kuriakose, Project Scientist of the Hazard Vulnerability Research Agency (HVRA) at the Department of Disaster Management. He added that the State Government was mulling over various options on conducting
further technical studies in the matter.
Mr. Radhakrishnan, along with Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph, would leave for New Delhi on Monday to hold talks with Union Ministers and convey the apprehensions of the State. “Discussions will be held with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, and Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. We also expect to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has been entrusted by the Prime Minister with the responsibility of resolving the issue. The Members of Parliaments from the state would also be actively involved in the discussions,” he said.
Reacting to Mr. Joseph’s statement that called for national parties to clarify their stance on the issue, Mr. Radhakrishnan was of the opinion that the issue should not be politicised and that the safety of those endangered should be given prime importance.